The almost 38,000 fans at the stadium in Wellington, New Zealand cheered on their team loudly. A few Filipino fans were also there, but their cheers didn’t really get through. But that changed after just under half an hour when Sara Eggesvik sent a sharp cross from the right into the penalty area. Striker Sarina Bolden beat two New Zealanders in the six-yard box and headed the ball into the goal to make it 1-0. “I can’t believe what we’ve achieved,” said crosser Eggesvik in tears after the final whistle. “It shows that we can achieve great things.”
McDaniel: “We are so happy”
It was the first World Cup goal for the Philippines, who are in Australia and New Zealand for the first time at a World Cup finals. In addition to the loud cheers of the players, especially the goal scorer, a small group in the stands could be heard exuberantly waving the Philippine flags. “We won our first game. I couldn’t be happier,” said goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel. “It means everything to us and our country. We are so happy.”
The Asian women’s coach, Australia’s Alen Stajcic, summed it up with satisfaction: “It was very emotional, it’s unbelievable. It was perhaps the greatest success for the Philippines in a team sport. Of course we also needed a bit of luck, but we also worked our way into luck with our style of play.”
Best football team in the region
For the “Malditas”, who had played no role internationally until last year, the last few months have been like a big football dream. Ever since national coach Stajcic has focused primarily on Filipinas living abroad, the success curve has been going up. In 2022, the team won the Southeast Asia championship for the first time – with a 3-0 final victory against the regional football powerhouse Thailand. Then the Philippines bought the ticket for the World Cup, the euphoria in the country knew no bounds.
President Ferdinand Marcos Junior even invited the whole team to his official residence. “It’s the sacrifices and hard training that have been made over the years. I can only imagine how hard it was to train during the pandemic,” said the head of state. “You make us proud – of yourselves, and of being Filipino.”
The players want to add another chapter to the previous success story. The Philippines had lost 2-0 to Switzerland, coached by former German international Inka Grings. But now everything is open again in the group, the outsider smells morning air at the end of the preliminary round. In the group final, the players of the Philippines meet the team of Norway in Auckland. In the other group game, World Cup hosts New Zealand and Switzerland will face off in Dunedin.